Facebook Unleashes New Array of Messenger Functions, Including Voice in Some Places
January 10, 2013
By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer
Recently, Facebook (News - Alert) brought out some live updates for its Messenger mobile apps on both iOS and Android, which will include some very impressive new features. But one of the biggest game-changers Facebook's looking to offer is only available in Canada right now, and this one has the potential to seriously destabilize an industry.
First, the comparatively simple; everyone will be able to get in on a recent update to Facebook's Messenger apps, which now allow for voice messages. Located alongside the photo and camera buttons, a new "record" button has come into play. Just hold down the record button to record voice messages, and from there, either slide off the button to cancel, or let go to send it. That by itself is a pretty big step, but Facebook is also looking to start beta testing a new feature in the iOS Messenger app: VoIP calling.
Set to operate in much the same way that Skype (News - Alert) does, the VoIP calling feature will allow users to set up peer-to-peer connections, making calls to other members without impacting their call allowances, though it will, of course, use data plans accordingly. The downside here is that, for the time being, this is only available for Canadian users of the iOS version of Messenger.
Facebook has been putting a lot into its messaging capabilities of late, making logging in easier for Android (News - Alert) Messenger users and bringing out Facebook Poke. So seeing Facebook show up on Skype's playground is a twist that's really only slightly unexpected. Granted, there's no real "wow factor" involved in such a move, but for Facebook users, having the equivalent of Skype built right into Facebook may be valuable.
This in turn offers up new sources of potential revenue for Facebook itself, including specific phone numbers or other premium VoIP features. Since there are already enterprise users of Facebook, Facebook may even be able to, eventually, cross into the enterprise VoIP market, allowing businesses the same kind of access to services as it would be offering to regular users. That's a lot of potential features that Facebook could get into, with things like hunt group technology or automated assistant answering systems, and a lot of potential reasons for businesses to reconsider their current phone provider, be it land-line or VoIP already.
If Facebook's initial trials go well, it may well expand those new services outward and offer up some serious competition to services like Skype, where Facebook will be able to offer an extra edge of convenience to the overall package. This could be the start of a major sea change in VoIP across several different markets, and an equally major shakeup for an entire industry.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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